Trevor Starkey’s Top 10 TV Shows of 2019

For the past couple years, I have tried to maintain a Google spreadsheet of all of the games and movies I play and see throughout the year to make ranking the content at the end of the year for lists like these a bit easier to bear. This year I added television into the mix but I wasn’t sure if I’d end up with enough to make a Top Ten or it would be some sort of abbreviated list. But thanks to a flurry of year-end offerings, I decided to press on (though you may notice that this one is relegated to a top ten list whereas my movie and game lists were filled out to top twenties).

Honorable Mentions

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver/Late Night with Seth Meyers/The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

I almost always try to catch the latest investigations, “Closer Looks” and monologues from these three Late Night hosts. Their perspective and humor help make the almost always disheartening news of the day a little bit more bearable and digestible.

Brooklyn 99/Downton Abbey/Bojack Horseman

I binged-slash-caught up on all of these disparate series this year but for the sake of this list would have a hard time deciphering what moments were from this season (well…none in the case of Downton Abbey which I was only really watching to catch up in time for the film) but these are all great series that check my “workplace sitcom,” “period drama,” and “existential cartoon” boxes, respectively.

Star Wars: Rebels

Prior to the launch of Disney Plus, I just didn’t have any easy means to watch this show but it was one of the first things I consumed in the early days of the service as I waited for the next installments of shows later on in this list. I thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing adventures of the crew of the Ghost and if this had been an active series rather than one that ended in 2018, it would have ranked fairly high on my list. Here’s hoping it gets the same potential revival treatment that Star Wars: The Clone Wars is getting with a new season or more on Disney Plus.

10. Game of Thrones

The beginning of the final season of Game of Thrones started off so well with incredible scenes like Samwell Tarly heartbreakingly discovering the fate of his family or the knighting of Ser Brienne of Tarth. And while I don’t think the later half of the season was as bad as the internet would have you believe, it ultimately did feel like it was trying to cram too many story beats into too short a time and had its characters make some questionable decisions for the sake of the narrative beats. But even with its issues, Game of Thrones brought its epic 8-year run to a close with moments that will be discussed for years to come, especially as it seems ever-more unlikely that we’ll see a proper conclusion in the books themselves with George R. R. Martin pulled in every other direction.

9. The Umbrella Academy

I watched the first episode of this show when the season dropped on Netflix but was then pulled away into some game or other and missed out on the initial zeitgeist moment where everyone on social media is talking about it for a few days and then they all move on to the next thing. By the time I came back to it, the conversation was gone and I was just enjoying it for me and I really enjoyed this story that reads like bizarro-versions of the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Batman all in one. Great performances all around and an ever-engaging series of twists and turns had me on the edge of my seat up through the final moments.

8. The Boys

From one messed up take on the superhero genre to another, with a drastically darker tonal shift. This is another one I went into not really knowing what to expect. So when I saw a familiar visual effect from something like The Flash, the last thing I was expecting was for the camera to slowly spin around to reveal that a character had just been exploded after being run through by a speedster “hero.” This sequence perfectly set the tone for the rest of the season and launching on Amazon Prime in the wake of San Diego Comic-Con and the one-two punch of Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home was an inspired choice as this band of anti-heroes confronted a much more cynical take on a Justice League-esque team.

7. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

The first High School Musical came out about halfway through my time in college so the phenomenon largely passed me by. I vaguely remember watching the movies but was confused by the massive reception they were getting. When Disney Plus launched, there was almost a sense of deja vu. I was so focused on a couple shows still to come that I honestly don’t think I even knew this was going to be a thing until people started talking about it. And even then, my initial reaction was “that is the stupidest name for a tv show imaginable.” But dang it if the mix of high school drama on and off stage and performances – acting and musical – haven’t sucked me in. I’m writing this blurb up prior to the final episode of season one but regardless of how it plays out, it has been an oddly delightful journey that I got hooked on to the point of staying up Thursday nights in order to watch the new episodes as soon as they release while I struggle back and forth over which characters I’m rooting for in any given week.

6. Barry

Another series that really taps into all of the things I loved – and with hindsight – hated about my acting/theatre days, Barry is just a wonderfully odd show. The season-long arc of Barry’s acting class wanting to put on a showcase with everyone telling their own authentic stories (and by that I mean highly fictionalized versions of what they wish those stories were) rang true to so many of my college classes. Meanwhile on the “oh right Barry is a hitman” front, the way that side of Barry’s world closed in on him throughout the season was incredibly compelling viewing. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Anthony Carrigan’s performance as NoHo Hank, who is consistently one of the funniest characters on any show and the stellar “ronny/lilly” that showcased Bill Hader’s talent as an actor, director, and writer all in one episode.

5. The Mandalorian

I thoroughly enjoyed this show and the way it told its story at a pace wildly different from anything we’ve ever seen in Star Wars before. I haven’t looked into this but I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire 8-episode season had less dialogue than any single film in the saga. So much of the story is told through its wonderful visuals, be it an action sequence where the titular Mandalorian eliminates a mob of his foes or a much more quiet scene of Mando and The Child in the cockpit of his ship toggling buttons off and on. Because, oh yeah, also BABY YODA!!!

4. My Hero Academia

2019 was the year I finally caught up on My Hero Academia. I started the series back during the daily vlog phase of Trevor Trove and was surprised by how well it hooked me. But I was also watching through CrunchyRoll/Hulu and their selection of Dubbed episodes (my sacreligious pretty method of viewing) was a season or so behind. I eventually switched over to Funimation though which meant, especially for the majority of season four, I have been keeping up with the adventures of Deku and The Big Three as they face off against the Yakuza as this current arc is happening. The thing that has impressed me the most in these recent episodes is just how effectively the show can have me go from 0 to 100 in terms of how much I care about a character within a single episode. The last handful of episodes as of writing have blown me away by how much I suddenly relate to Suneater, Red Riot, and Lemillion. Meanwhile, Deku continues to show why he is the natural successor to All Might and I’m tearing up even writing this blurb while reflecting back on how I would stupidly scoff at my friends who were this invested in the show circa Kinda Funny Live 3.

3. The Witcher

My only real attempt at investing in the characters and world of The Witcher came in the form of the 2015 game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I enjoyed what I played, naming it my 3rd favorite game of that year despite coming nowhere close to finishing it. One of the things that I think drove me away, especially in the hindsight of watching the Netflix series, is that jumping into the third installment put me at a significant disadvantage in terms of knowing the history and politics of those characters and that world. So I greatly appreciate that this series has provided a new entry point for me. Henry Cavill is excellent as Geralt of Rivia. I’ve enjoyed him since way back in 2002’s Count of Monte Cristo so getting to see him sink his teeth into a role he so clearly relishes makes for an incredibly fun time. Anya Chalotra probably gets to show off her character growth the most throughout the first season as Yennefer and when she and Cavill share the screen in the later half of the season, the complex layers of their relationship fire on all cylinders. Freya Allan probably gets the least to do in season one as Ciri spends so much of her timeline on the run but with all three characters stories finally coming together, I look forward to where season two takes them all. In the meantime, I think I’ll give the game another shot. Also, “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” is way too catchy.

2. The Imagineering Story

Around July 4th weekend 2018, I finally bit the bullet and got myself a Disneyland Annual Pass, realizing it was a better price than buying the multi-day tickets I would for my other planned trips. Quick weekend trips to over to Disneyland with fellow Nerd Ben and our friend Lauren have been a true highlight of the last couple years and Ben and I share a love of Disneyland history. This love of all things Disneyland was likely instilled in me by my parents, who recently celebrated a couple of their milestone birthdays at the park. So with all of that in mind, The Imagineering Story, a six-part documentary about the Imagineers behind the Disney parks and beyond was a tailor-made Disney Plus offering for me. I loved the deep dive into the various eras of the company. It didn’t quite delve into all of the stories I would have been interested to explore (a lot of the legacy rides no longer in the parks don’t get too much time for example) but it was a fascinating peek behind the curtain from start to finish.

1. Watchmen

I first read the Watchmen graphic novel in the run-up to the 2009 Zack Snyder film and being immediately engrossed by it. I wound up enjoying the film, even if it was perhaps a little too beholden to the source iconography (if you’re just going to put the panels directly on the screen, why am I watching a movie instead of just reading the comic?). But going into the first episode of the HBO series, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t really been following the project so the “Tick Tock” trailers I saw mostly just left me confused. But damn if this wasn’t a phenomenally-crafted story from start to finish. Setting the show against the backdrop of race relations and white supremacy was a perfect way to carry the story forward 30 years. The way it not only tells its own story, but also reveals its links to the original story and – even more shockingly – recontextualizes elements of that story that makes the original story even better make it a clear frontrunner for my favorite show of 2019. Mix in an incredible ensemble, exquisite writing, and gorgeous direction and that’s just icing on the cake. If they pursue a second season, I will absolutely be there on day one but if HBO has the audacity to leave this as a “one and done” type of series, I am perfectly content with that too.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on my favorite television of 2019. Please consider checking out similar write-ups on my favorite games and movies of the year if you have not and you can hear my thoughts on all three in this week’s That Nerdy Site Show.

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